GEORGE BUSH: THE UNAUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY
Chapter -XXIV- The New World Order
Roma caput mundi regit orbis frena rotundi
(Rome, the chief of the world, hold the reins of this round orb.)
Inscription on the imperial crown of Diocletian.
During late 1989 and 1990, George Bush traversed a decisive watershed in his political career and in his own personal mental life. Up until this transition, Bush had attempted to secure advancement through an attitude of deference and propitiation, currying favor with a series of politicians and power brokers whom he despised as his social inferiors, and whom he never hesitated to stab in the back once he got the chance to do so. This was the old duplicitous "have half" persona of his early childhood. During the long years of Bush's quest for the vice presidency, and during the eight long years of his tenure in that office, the public face of Bush was that of dog-like fidelity and Reaganite orthodoxy. During these years Bush exhibited the same relative cognitive impairment which he had exhibited since his Andover days. On the surface, he was a top-level bureaucratic functionary of the US police state, sharing the moral insanity of the policy commitments of the government apparatus which he represented.
Severe and debilitating mental strains had been evident in Bush's personality from his earliest years. Such tensions were an inevitable result of the inhuman self-discipline demanded by his mother, Dorothy Walker Bush, whose regimen combined the most ruthless pursuit of personal affirmation for its own sake, with the imperative that all this single-minded striving be dissembled behind the elaborate pose of fairness and concern for the rights of others. During 1989 and 1990, the tensions converging on Bush's personal psychological structures were greatly magnified not just by the Panama adventure and the Gulf war, but also by the crisis of the Anglo-American financial interests, by the threat posed to Anglo-American plans by German reunification, by the thorny problems of preparing his own re-election, and by the foundering of his condominium partners in the Kremlin. As a result of this surfeit of tensions, Bush's personality entered into a process of disintegration. The whining accents of the wimp, so familiar to Bush-watchers of years past, were now increasingly supplanted by the hiss of frenetic spleen.
The successor personality which emerged from this upheaval differed in several important respects from the George Bush who had sought and occupied the vice-presidency. The George Bush who emerged in late 1990 after the dust had settled was far less restrained than the man who had languished in Reagan's shadow. The hyperthyroid "presidential" persona of Bush was equipped with little self-control, and rather featured a series of compulsive, quasi-psychotic episodes exhibited in the public glare of the television lights. These were typically rage-induced outbursts of verbal abuse and threats made in the context of international crises, first against Noriega and later against Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.
Some might argue that the public rage fits that became increasingly frequent during 1989-90 were calculated and scripted performances, calibrated and staged according to the methods of mind war for the express purpose of intimidating foreign adversaries and, not least of all, the American population itself. Bush's apprenticeship with Kissinger would have taught him the techniques we have seen Kissinger employ in his secret communications with Moscow during the Indo-Pakistani war of 1970: Kissinger makes clear that an integral part of his crisis management style is the studied attempt to convince his adversary that the latter is dealing with a madman who will not shun any expedient, no matter how irrational, in order to prevail. But with the Bush of 1990 we are far beyond such calculating histrionics. There were still traces of method in George Bush's madness, but the central factor was now the madness itself.
The thesis of this chapter is that while it is clear that the Gulf war was a deliberate and calculated provocation by the Anglo-American oligarchical and financier elite, the mental instability and psychological disintegration of George Bush was an indispensable ingredient in implementing the actions which the oligarchs and bankers desired. Without a George Bush who was increasingly non compos mentis, the imperialist grand design for the destruction of the leading Arab state and the intimidation of the third world might have remained on the shelf. Especially since the Bay of Pigs and the Vietnam debacle, American presidents have seen excellent reasons to mistrust their advisers when the latter came bearing plans for military adventures overseas. The destruction of the once powerful Lyndon B. Johnson, in particular, has stood as an eloquent warning to his successors that a president who wants to have a political future must be very reticent before he attempts to write a new page in the martial exploits of imperialism. Eisenhower's repudiation of the Anglo-French Suez invasion of 1956 can serve to remind us that even a relatively weak US president may find reasons not to leap into the vanguard of the latest hare-brained scheme to come out of the London clubs. The difficulty of orchestrating a "splendid little war" is all the more evident when the various bureaucratic, military, and financier factions of the US establishment are not at all convinced that the project is a winner or even worthwhile, as the pro-sanctions, wait and see stance of many Democratic members of the House and Senate indicates. The subjectivity of George Bush is therefore a vital link in the chain of any explanation of why the war happened, and that subjectivity centers an increasingly desperate, aggravated, infantile id, tormented by the fires of a raging thyroid storm.
Bush's new desire to strut and posture as a madman on the world stage, as contrasted with his earlier devotion to secret, behind-the-scenes iniquity has certain parallels in Suetonius's portrait of the Emperor Nero. Before Nero had fully consolidated his hold on power, he cultivated outward and public displays of filial piety, and strove to manifest "good intentions." These were the veneer for monstrous crimes that were at first carried out covertly: "...at first his acts of wantonness, lust, extravagance, avarice, and cruelty were gradual and secret...." But once Nero had firmly established his own regime, the monster became more and more overt: "little by little, however, as his vices grew stronger, he dropped jesting and secrecy and with no attempt at disguise openly broke out into worse crime." [fn 1] Something similar can be observed in the case of Caligula, who had a wimp problem of sorts during the time that he lived on the island of Capri in the shadow of the aging emperor Tiberius, in somewhat the same way that Bush had lived in the shadow of Reagan, as least as far as the public was concerned. In the case of Caligula, "although at Capri every kind of wile was resorted to by those who tried to lure him or force him to utter complaints, he never gave them any satisfaction...." Caligula was "...so obsequious towards his grandfather [Tiberius] and his household, that it was well said of him that no one had ever been a better slave or a worse master." [fn 2] Later, when Caligula came into his own, he exacted a terrible price from the world for his earlier humiliations.
The process of mental and moral degeneration, the loss of previous self-control observable in Bush during this period is not merely an individual matter. The geek act in the White House was typical of the collective mental and political behavior of the faction to which Bush belongs by birth and pedigree, the Anglo-American financiers. During 1989 and 1990, outbursts of megalomania, racism, and manic flight forward were common enough, not just in Washington, but in Wall Street, Whitehall, and the City of London as well. These moods provided the psychic raw material for the strategic construct which Bush would proclaim during the late summer of 1990 as "The New World Order."
By the autumn of 1989, it was evident that the Soviet Empire, the cold-war antagonist and then the uneasy partner of the Anglo-Americans over more than four decades, was falling apart. During the middle 1980's, the Anglo-Americans and their counterparts in the Kremlin had arrived at the conclusion that, since they could no longer dominate the planet through their rivalry (the cold war), they must now attempt to dominate it through their collusion. The new detente of Reagan's second term, in which Bush had played a decisive role, was a worldwide condominium of the Soviets and Anglo-Saxons, the two increasingly feeble and gutted empires who now leaned on each other like two drunks, each one propping the other up. That had been the condominium, incarnated in the figure of Gorbachov.
Both empires were collapsing at an exceedingly rapid pace, but during the second half of the 1980's the rate of Soviet decay outstripped that of the Anglo-Americans. That took some doing, since between 1985 and 1990, the global edifice of Anglo-American speculation and usury had been shaken by the panic of 1987, and by the deflationary contraction of 1989, both symptoms of a lethal disorder. But the Anglo-Americans, unlike the Soviets, were insulated within their North Atlantic metropolis by the possession of a global, as distinct from a merely continental, base of economic rapine, so the economic and political manifestations of the Soviet collapse were more spectacular.
The day of reckoning for the Anglo-Americans was not far off, but in the meantime the breathtaking collapse of the Soviets opened up megalomaniac vistas to the custodians of the Imperial idea in London drawing rooms and English country houses. The practitioners of the Great Game of geopolitics were now enticed by the perspective of the Single Empire, a worldwide Imperium that would be a purely Anglo-Saxon show, with the Russians and Chinese forced to knuckle under. Like the contemporaries of the Duke of Wellington in 1815, the imbecilic Anglo-American think-tankers and financiers contemplated the chimera of a new century of world domination, not unlike the British world supremacy that had extended from the Congress of Vienna until the First World War. The old Skull and Bones slogan of Henry Luce's "American Century" of 1945, which had been robbed of its splendid luster by the Russians and the Cold War, could now ride again.
True, there were still some obstacles. The Great Russian rout meant that German reunification could not be avoided, which brought with it the danger of a Wirtschaftswunder reaching from the Atlantic to the Urals. That, and the continued economic dynamism of the Japanese-oriented sphere in the Far East, would be combated, by economic conflicts and trade wars that would take advantage of the Anglo-American control of raw materials and above all oil, with the Anglo-American lease on the Persian Gulf to be vigorously reaffirmed. Even so, the end of the partition of Germany was a real trauma for the Anglo-Saxons, and would elicit a wave of true hysteria on the part of Mrs. Thatcher, Nicholas Ridley, and the rest of their circle, and a parallel public episode of consternation and chagrin on the part of Bush. The Anglo-Americans were moved to sweeping countermeasures. A little further down the line, a war in the Balkans could bring chaos to the German economic Hinterland. From the standpoint of British and Kissingerian geopolitics, the countermeasures were necessary to restore the balance of power, which now risked shifting in favor of the new Germany. German ascendancy would mean that London would occupy the place to which Thatcher's economics had entitled that wretched nation- a niche of impotence, impoverishment, isolation, and irrelevance. But the British were determined to be important, and war was a way to attain that goal.
There were also governments in the developing sector whose obedience to the Anglo-Saxon supermen was in doubt. The 250,000,000 Arabs, who were in turn the vanguard of a billion Moslems, would always be intractable. The out-of-area deployments doctrine of the Atlantic Alliance would now be the framework for the ritual immolation of the leading Arab state, which happened to be Iraq. Later, there would be time to crush and dismember India, Malaysia, Brazil, Indonesia and some others.
Then there was the inherent demographic weakness of the Anglo-Saxons, especially the falling birth rate, now exacerbated by Hollywood, television, and heavy metal. How could such a small master race prevail against the black, brown, yellow, Mediterranean and Slavic masses? The answer to that could only be genocide on a collossal scale, with economic breakdown, famine, epidemics and pestilence completing the job that war had begun. If the birth rate of Nigeria seemed destined to catapult that country into second place among the world demographic powers, the AIDS epidemic in central Africa was the remedy. General Death was the main ally of the Anglo-Saxons.
Despite these problems, Bush and his co-thinkers were confident that they could subjugate the planet for a full century. But they had to hurry. Unless the Soviets, Chinese, Germans, Japanese, and third world powers could be rapidly dealt with, the Anglo-Americans might be overtaken by their own accelerating economic collapse, and they might soon find themselves too weak to extend their yoke over the world. The military machine that attacked Iraq was in the process of shrinking by more than 25% because of growing American economic weakness, so it was important to act fast.
The Anglo-American system depended on squeezing enough wealth out of the world economy to feed the insatiable demands of the debt and capital structures in London and New York. During the 1980's, those capital structures had swelled like malignant tumors, while the depleted world economy was bled white. Now, crazed after their October 1987 and October 1989 brushes with bottomless financial and currency panic, the masters of usury in London and New York demanded that the rate of primitive accumulation be stepped up all over the world. The old Soviet sphere would pass from the frying pan of the Comecon to the fires of the IMF. By the spring of 1991 Bush would issue his calls for a free trade zone from the north pole to Tierra del Fuego, and then for world wide free trade. Bush's handling of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the North American Free Trade Zone soon convinced the Europe '92 crowd in Brussels that the Anglo-Americans were hell-bent on global trade war.
These were the impulses and perspectives which impinged on Bush from what he later called "the Mother Country," and which were vigorously imparted to him in his frequent consultations with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who now loomed very large in the configuration of Bush's personal network.
Bush had met Gorbachov in March, 1985, when his "you die, we fly" services were required for the funeral of old Konstantin Chernenko, the octogenarian symbol of the impasse of the post-Andropov Kremlin who had ruled the USSR for just 390 days. Gorbachov had come highly recommended by Margaret Thatcher, with whom he had become acquainted the previous year. Thatcher had judged the new-look Gorbachov a man with whom she could do business. Bush came to Moscow bearing an invitation from Reagan for a parley at the summit; this would later become the choreographed pirouette of Geneva that November. Bush gave Gorbachov a garbled and oblique endorsement: "If ever there was a time that we can move forward with progress in the last few years, then I would say this is a good time for that," stammered Bush. [fn 3] After Geneva there would follow summits in Iceland in 1986, Washington in 1987 to sign the INF treaty, and then Reagan's swan song in Moscow in the summer of 1988, a valuable auxiliary to George's own electioneering. But, as we have seen, the Bush team was contemptuous of slobbering sentimental old Reagan, a soft touch who let the Russians take him to the cleaners, especially in arms control negotiations. Bush wanted to drive a hard bargain, and that meant stalling until the Soviets became truly desperate for any deal. In addition, when Reagan and Bush had met Gorbachov on Governor's Island in New York harbor in the midst of the transition, Gorbachov had been guilty of lese majeste towards the heir apparent and had piqued Bush's ire.
According to one account of the Governor's Island meeting of December 7, 1988, after some small talk by Uncle Ron, Bush wanted to know from Gorbachov, "What assurance can you give me that I can pass to American businessmen who want to invest in the Soviet Union that perestroika and glasnost will succeed?" Was this the official business of the United States, or investment counselling for Kravis, Liedkte, Mossbacher, and Pickens? Gorbachov's reply is recalled by participants as brusque to the point of rudeness: "Not even Jesus Christ knows the answer to that question," said he, amidst the gasps of Bush's staff. A minute later, Gorbachov turned to Bush with a lecture: "Let me take this opportunity to tell you something. Your staff may have told you that what I'm doing is all a trick. It's not. I'm playing real politics. I have a revolution going that I announced in 1986. Now, in 1988, the Soviet people don't like it. Don't misread me, Mr. Vice President, I have to play real politics." [fn 4] After that, the telegenic Gorbachov could look for his photo opportunities somewhere else during most of 1989. There would ne no early Most Favored Nation trade status for Moscow. In addition, the signals from London were to go slow. The result was Bush's "prudent review" of US-Soviet relations.
Gorbachov was always hungry for summitry, and during an April visit to Thatcher, the Soviet leader chided Bush for the US "hesitation" on new arms control deals. Bush dismissed this remark with a huff: "We're making a prudent review, and I will be ready to discuss that with the Soviets when we are ready. We'll be ready to react when we feel like reacting." [fn 5] Ministerial meeting between Baker and Shevardnadze were proceeding. In May, the voice of Reagan was heard from his California retirement, telling his friends that he was "increasingly concerned at what he considers an excessively cautious approach to nuclear arms reductions with the Soviets." Reagan thought that Bush was indeed too hesitant, and that Gorbachov was seizing the initiative with western Europe as a result. In the view attributed to Reagan by these unnamed friends, "Bush opted for the delaying tactic of a policy review, behaving the way new presidents do when replacing someone from the opposing party with different views." According to journalist Lou Cannon, "both in Bonn and in Beverly Hills they are wondering if Bush's only strategy is to react to events as they unfold." [fn 6] There was the wimp again.
In September, Bush was in Helena, Montana, sounding the same prudent note while defending himself from Senate Majority Leader Mitchell, who had been making some debater's points about Bush's "timidity" and "status-quo" thinking. Bush repeated that he was in "no rush" for a summit with Gorbachov. "I don't think there's any chance of a disconnect" in Moscow's comprehension that "we want to see their perestroika succeed," said Bush. [fn 7]
What changed Bush's mind was the collapse of the East German communist regime, which had been gathering speed during the summer of 1989 with the thousands of East Germans demanding admittance to West German embassies, first in Hungary, and then in Czechoslovakia. Then, in one of the most dramatic developments in recent decades of European history, the Berlin Wall and the East German "shoot to kill" order along the line of demarcation in the middle of Germany were tossed into the dustbin of history. This was one of the most positive events that the generations born after 1945 had ever witnessed. But for Bush and the Anglo-Americans, it was the occasion for public tantrums.
For Bush individually, the breaching of the Berlin Wall of 1961 was the detonator of one of his most severe episodes thus far of public emotional disturbance. Bush had repeated Reagan's sure-fire formula of "Mr. Gorbachov, tear this wall down," during a visit to Helmut Kohl in Mainz in late May. "Let Berlin be next," Bush had said then. The wall "must come down." But in the midst of Bush's throw away lines like "Let Europe be whole and free," there was no mention whatsoever of German reunification, which was nevertheless in the air.
Thus, when the wall came down, Bush could not avoid a group of reporters in the Oval Office, where he sat in a swivel chair in the company of James Baker. Bush told the reporters that he was "elated" by the news, but his mood was at once funereal and testy. If he was so elated, why was he so unhappy? Why the long face? "I'm just not an emotional kind of guy." The main chord was one of caution. "It's way too early" to speculate about German reunification, although Bush was forced to concede, through clenched teeth, that the Berlin Wall "will have very little relevance" from now on. Everything Bush said tended to mute the drama of what had happened: "I don't think any single event is the end of what you might call the Iron Curtain. But clearly, this is a long way from the harsh days of the --the harshest Iron Curtain days-- a long way from that." "We are not trying to give anybody a hard time," Bush went on. "We're saluting those who can move forward to democracy. We are encouraging the concept of a Europe whole and free. And so we just welcome it." The East German "aspirations for freedom seem to be a little further down the road now." But Bush was not going to "dance on the wall," that much was clear. [fn 8]
After this enraged and tongue-tied monologue with the reporters, Bush privately asked his staff: "How about if I give them one of these?" Then he jumped in the air, waved his hands, and yelled "Whoooopppeee!" at the top of his lungs. [fn 9] Bush's spin doctors went into action, explaining that the president had been "restrained" because of his desire to avoid gloating or otherwise offending Gorbachov and the Kremlin.
Bush's gagged emotional clutch attracted a great deal of attention in the press and media. "Why did the leader of the western world look as though he had lost his last friend the day they brought him the news of the fall of the Berlin Wall?", asked Mary McGrory. "George Bush's stricken expression and lame words about an event that had the rest of mankind quickly singing hosannas were an awful letdown at a high moment in history." [fn 10]
In reality, Bush's suppressed rage was another real epiphany of his character, the sort of footage which a serious rival presidential campaign would put on television over and over to show voters that George has no use for human freedom. Bush's family tradition was to support totalitarian rule in Germany, starting with daddy Prescott's role in the Hitler project, and continuing with Averell Harriman's machinations of 1945, which helped to solidify a communist dictatorship for forty years in the eastern zone after the Nazis had fallen. But Bush's reaction was also illustrative of the Anglo-American perception that the resurgence of German industrialism in central Europe was a deadly threat.
Over in London, Thatcher's brain truster Nicholas Ridley was forced to quit the cabinet after he foamed at the mouth in observations about German unity, which he equated with a Nazi resurgence seeking to enslave Britain within the coils of the EEC. Conor Cruise O'Brien, Peregrine Worthshorne and various Tory propagandists coined the phrase of an emergent "Fourth Reich" which would now threaten Europe and the world. The Anglo-Saxon oligarchs were truly dismayed, and it is in this hysteria that we must seek the roots of the Gulf crisis and the war against Iraq.
But in the meantime, the collapse of the old Pankow regime in East Berlin meant that Bush had urgent issues to discuss with Gorbachov. The two agreed to meet on ships in Malta during the first week of December.
Bush talked about his summit plans in a special televised address before Thanksgiving, 1989. He tried to claim credit for the terminal crisis of communism, citing his own inaugural address: "The day of the dictator is over." But mainly he sought to reassure Gorbachov: "...we will give him our assurance that America welcomes this reform not as an adversary seeking advantage but as a people offering support." "...I will assure him that there is no greater advocate of perestroika than the president of the United States." Bush also had to protect his flank from criticism from Europeans and domestic critics like Lyndon LaRouche who had warned that the Malta meeting contained the threat of an attempted new Yalta of the superpowers at the expense of Europe. "We are not meeting to determine the future of Europe," Bush promised. [fn 11]
It is reported that, here again, Bush was so secretive about this summit until it was announced that he did not consult with his staffs. If he had, the nature of Mediterranean winter storms might have influenced a decision to meet elsewhere. The result was the famous sea-sick summit, during which Bush, whose self-image as a bold sea dog in the tradition of Sir Francis Drake required that he spend the night on a heaving US warship, required treatment for acute mal de mer. Bush's vomiting syndrome, which was to become so dramatic in Japan, was beginning. He had perhaps not been so tempest-tossed since his nautical outing with Don Aronow back in 1983.
At the Malta-Yalta table, Bush and Gorbachov haggled over the "architecture" of the new Europe. Gorbachov wanted NATO to be dissolved as the Warsaw Pact ceased to exist, but this was something Bush and the British refused to grant. Bush explained that Germany was best bound within NATO in order to avoid the potential for independent initiatives that neither Moscow nor Washington wanted. A free hand for each empire within its respective sphere was reaffirmed, as suggested by the symmetry of Bush's assault on Panama during the Romanian crisis that liquidated Ceausescu, but left a neo-communist government of old Comintern types like Iliescu and Roman in power. Bush would also support the Kremlin against both Armenia and Azerbaijan when hostilities and massacres broke out between these regions during the following month. Bush's reciprocal services to Gorbachov included a monstrous diplomatic first: just as the communist regime in East Germany was in its death agony, Bush dispatched James Baker to Potsdam to meet with the East German "reform communist" leader, Modrow. No US Secretary of State had ever set foot in the DDR during its entire history after 1949, but now, in the last days of the Pankow communist regime, Baker would go there. His visit was an insult to those East Germans who had marched for freedom, always having to reckon with the danger that Honecker's tanks would open fire. Baker's visit was designed to delay, sabotage and stall German reunification in whatever ways were still possible, while shoring up the communist regime. Baker gave it his best shot, but his sleazy dealmaking skills were of no use in the face of an aroused populace. Nevertheless, after Tien An Men and Potsdam, Bush was rapidly emerging as one of the few world leaders who could be counted on to support world communism.
During the early months of 1990, certain forces in Moscow, Bonn, and other capitals gravitated towards a new Rapallo arrangement in a positive key: there was the potential that the inmates of the prison-house of nations might attain freedom and self-determination, while German capital investments in infrastructure and economic modernization could guarantee that the emerging states would be economically viable, a process from which the entire world could benefit.
A rational policy for the United States under these circumstances would have entailed a large-scale commitment to taking part in rebuilding the infrastructure of the former Soviet sphere in transportation, communications, energy, education, and health services, combined with capital investments in industrial modernization. Such investment might also have served as a means to re-start the depressed US economy. The pre-condition for economic cooperation would have been a recognition by the Soviet authorities that the aspirations of their subject nationalities for self-determination had to be honored, including through the independence of the former Soviet republics in the Baltic, the Trans-caucasus, central Asia, the Ukraine, and elsewhere. As long as long as the Soviet military potential remained formidable, adequate military preparedness in the west was indispensable, and should have featured a significant commitment to the "new physical principles" anti-missile defenses that had inspired the original Strategic Defense Initiative of the 1983. Obviously, none of these measures would have been possible without a decisive break with the economic policy of the Reagan-Bush years, in favor of an economic recovery program focused on fostering high-technology growth in capital-intensive industrial employment producing tangible, physical commodities. The single US political figure who had proposed such a program for war-avoidance and stability was Lyndon LaRouche, who had put forward such a package during a press conference in West Berlin in October, 1988, in the context of a prophetic forecast that German re-unification was very much on the agenda for the immediate future.
Bush was responsible for the jailing of LaRouche, and his policy in these matters was diametrically opposite to this approach. Bush never made a serious proposal for the economic reconstruction of the areas included within the old USSR, and was niggardly even in loans to let the Russians buy agricultural commodities. In November, 1990, Gorbachov addressed a desperate plea to world governments to alleviate the USSR food shortage, and sent Foreign Minister Shevardnadze to Washington in the following month in hopes of obtaining a significant infusion of outright cash grants for food purchases from US stocks. After photo opportunities with Baker in Texas and with Bush at the White House, all Shevardnadze had to take back to Moscow was a paltry $1 billion and change. Within a week of Shevardnadze's return, he resigned his post under fire from critics, referring to sinister plans for a coup against Gorbachov. The coup, of course, came the following August. It should have been obvious that Bush's policy was maximizing the probability of ugly surprises further down the road.
Bush did not demand self-determination for the subject nationalities, but sided with the Kremlin against the republics again and again, ignoring the January, 1991 bloodbath in Lithuania, or winning himself the title of "chicken Kiev" during a July, 1991 trip to the Ukraine in which he told that republic's Supreme Soviet to avoid the pitfalls of "suicidal" nationalism. Even though the Soviet missile park was largely intact, Bush was compelled by his budget penury to take down significant areas of US military capacities. And finally, his stubborn refusal to throw the bankrupt policies of the Reagan-Bush years overboard guaranteed further US economic collapse.
But Bush was mindful neither of war avoidance nor economic recovery. In the months after Panama, he basked in the afterglow of a dramatic increase in his popularity, as reflected by the public opinion polls. A full-scale state visit by Gorbachov was scheduled for late May. Rumblings were being heard in the Middle East. But, in early April, Bush's mind was focused on other matters. It was now that he made his famous remarks on the subject of broccoli. The issue surfaced when the White House decreed that henceforth, by order of the president himself, broccoli would no longer be served to Bush. Reporters determined to use the next available photo opportunity to ask what this was all about.
Bush's infantile anti-broccoli outburst came in the context of a White House State Dinner held in honor of the visiting Polish Prime Minister, Tadeusz Mazowiecki. Although Bush was obsessed with broccoli, he did make some attempt to relate his new obsession to the social context in which he found himself:
Just as Poland had a rebellion against totalitarianism, I am rebelling against broccoli, and I refuse to give ground. I do not like broccoli, and I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm President of the United States, and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli.
Out in California, where broccoli is big business as a cash crop, producers were aroused sufficiently to dispatch 10 tons of broccoli, equivalent to about 80,000 servings, to the White House. Bush was still adamant:
Barbara loves broccoli. She's tried to make me eat it. She eats it all the time herself. So she can go out and meet the caravan. [fn 12]
These statements were an illumination in themselves, since the internal evidence pointed conclusively to a choleric infantile tantrum being experienced by the president. But what could have occasioned an outburst on broccoli, of all things? Slightly more than a year later, when it became known that Bush was suffering from Basedow's disease, some observers recalled the broccoli outburst. For it turns out that broccoli, along with cabbage and some other vegetables, belongs to a category of foods called goitrogens. Some schools of medicine recommend frequent servings of broccoli in order to help cool off an overactive thyroid. [fn 13] There was much speculation that Bush's hyperthyroid syndrome had been diagnosed by March-April, or perhaps earlier, and that broccoli had been appearing more often on the White House menu as part of a therapy to return Bush's thyroid and metabolism to more normal functioning. Was the celebrated thyroid outburst a case of an irascible president, in the grip of psychopathological symptoms his physicians were attempting to treat, rebelling against his doctors' orders?
At their spring summit, Bush and Gorbachov continued to disagree about whether united Germany would be a member of NATO. Much time was spent on strategic arms, the Vienna conventional arms reduction talks, and the other aspects of the emerging European architecture, where their mutual counter-revolutionary commitments went very deep. Both stressed that they had taken their Malta consultations as their point of departure. Bush's hostility to the cause of Lithuania and the other Baltic republics, now subject to crippling economic blockade by Moscow, was writ large. The central exchanges of this summit were doubtless those which occurred in the bucolic isolation of Camp David among a small shirtsleeve group that comprehended Bush, Gorbachov, Shevardnadze, Baker, and Scowcroft. Bush was unusually closed-mouthed, but the very loquacious Gorbachov volunteered that they had come to talk about the "planet and its flash-points" and the "regional issues." There was the distinct impression that these talks were sweeping and futurological in their scope. In his press conference the next day, Gorbachov had glowing praise for these restricted secret talks: "I would like, in particular, to emphasize the importance of our dialogue at Camp David, where we talked during the day yesterday. And this is a new phase in strengthening mutual understanding and trust between us. We really discussed all world problems. We compared our political perspectives, and we did that in an atmosphere of frankness, constructive atmosphere, an atmosphere of growing trust. We discussed specifically such urgent international issues as the situation in the Middle East, Afghanistan, southern Africa, Cambodia, central America. That is just some of what we discussed. I would not want to go into detail right now. I think you will probably seek to get clarification on this, but anyway I think the Camp David dialogue was very important." [fn 14]
Gorbachov also had lengthy answers about the discontent in the Arab world over the Soviet policy of mass emigrations of Russian Jews who were obliged to settle in Israel. For the Middle East was indeed approaching crisis. In the words of one observer, "Bush and Gorbachov stirred the boiling pot of Middle East tensions with their press conference remarks, forgetting the damage that seemingly remote forces can do to the grandest of East-West designs." [fn 15] Did Bush and Gorbachov use their Camp David afternoon to coordinate their respective roles in the Gulf crisis, which the Anglo-Americans were now about to provoke? It is very likely that they did.
Bush's political stock was declining during the summer of 1990. One indication was provided by the astoundingly frank remarks of Justice Thurgood Marshall of the US Supreme Court in an interview with Sam Donaldson on the ABC News television program "Prime Time Live." Justice Marshall, the sole black justice on the Supreme Court, was asked for his reaction to Bush's nomination of the "stealth candidate" David Souter to fill the place of the retiring Justice William Brennan, a friend of Marshall's. Souter was a man without qualities who appeared to have no documentable opinions on any subject, although he had a sinister look. "I just don't understand what he's doing. I just don't understand it. I mean this last appointment is... the epitome of what he's been doing." said Marshall of Bush. Marshall didn't have "the slightest idea" of Bush's motives in the Souter nomination. Would Marshall comment on Bush's civil rights record, asked correspondent Sam Donaldson. "Let me put it this way. It's said that if you can't say something good about a dead person, don't say it. Well, I consider him dead." Who was dead, asked Donaldson. "Bush!" was Marshall's reply. "He's dead from the neck up."
Marshall added that he regarded Bush's chief of staff, John Sununu of New Hampshire, the state Souter was from, as the one "calling the shots." "If he came up for election," said Marshall of Bush, "I'd vote against him. No question about it. I don't think he's ever stopped" running for re-election since he took office. Marshall and Donaldson had the following exchange about Souter:
Donaldson: Do you know Judge David Souter?
Marshall: No, never heard of him.
Donaldson: He may be the man to replace Brennan.
Marshall: I still never heard of him. When his name came down I listened to television. And the first thing, I called my wife. Have I ever heard of this man? She said, "No, I haven't either. So I promptly called Brennan, because it's his circuit [the First Circuit in Boston]. And his wife answered the phone, and I told her. She said: "He's never heard of him either."
Marshall and Brennan had often been at odds with the Bush's administration's promotion of the death penalty. In this connection, Marshall commented: "My argument is that if you make a mistake in a trial and it's corrected later on --you find out it was an error-- you correct it. But if you kill a man, what do you say? "Oops?" "I'm sorry?" "Wait a minute?" That's the trouble with death. Death is so lasting."
On this occasion, Marshall renewed his pledge that he would never resign, but would die in office: "I said before, and I repeat that, I'm serving out my life term. I have a deal with my wife that when I begin to show signs of senility, she'll tell me. And she will." [fn 16] Yet, less than one year later, Marshall announced his retirement from the bench, giving Bush the chance to split the organizations of black America with the Clarence Thomas appointment. Those who saw Marshall's farewell press conference would have to agree that he still possessed one of the most lucid and trenchant minds anywhere in the government. Had Bush's vindictiveness expressed itself once again through its inevitable instruments of secret blackmail and threats?
During June and July, domestic economic issues edged their way back to center stage of US politics. As always, that was bad news for Bush.
Bush's biggest problem during 1990 was the collision between his favorite bit of campaign demagogy, his "read my lips, no new taxes" mantra of 1990, and the looming national bankruptcy of the United States. Bush had sent his budget to the Hill on January 29 where the Democrats, despite the afterglow of Panama, had promptly pronounced it Dead on Arrival. During March and April, there were rounds of haggling between the Congress and Bush's budget pointman, Richard Darman of OMB. Then, on the sunny spring Sunday afternoon of May 6, Bush used the occasion of a White House lecture on his ego ideal, Theodore Roosevelt, to hold a discreet meeting with Democratic Congressional leaders for the purpose of quietly deep-sixing the no new taxes litany. Bush was extremely surreptitious in the jettisoning of his favorite throw-away line, but the word leaked out in Monday's newspapers that the White House, in the person of hatchet-man Sununu, was willing to go to a budget summit with "no preconditions." Responding to questions on Monday, Bush's publicity man Fitzwater explained that Bush wanted budget negotiations "unfettered with conclusions about positions taken in the past." That sounded like new taxes.
Bush had been compelled to act by a rising chorus of panicked screaming from the City of London and Wall Street, who had been demanding a serious austerity campaign ever since Bush had arrived at the White House. After the failure of the $13 billion Bank of New England in January, Wall Street corporatist financier Felix Rohaytn had commented: "I have never been so uneasy about the outlook in 40 years. Everywhere you look, you see red lights blinking. I see something beyond recession, but short of depression." [fn 17] At the point that Bush became a tax apostate, estimates were that the budget deficit for fiscal 1990 would top $200 billion and after that disappear into the wild blue yonder. The IMF-BIS bankers wanted Bush to extract more of that wealth from the blood and bones of the American people, and George would now go through the motions of compliance.
The political blowback was severe. Ed Rollins, the co-chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, was a Reagan Democrat who had decided to stick with the GOP, and he had developed a plan, which turned out to be a chimera, about how the Republicans could gain some ground in the Congress. As a professional political operative, Rollins was acutely sensitive to the fact that Bush's betrayal of his "no new taxes pledge" would remove the one thing that George and his party supposedly stood for. "The biggest difference between Republicans and Democrats in the public perception is that Republicans don't want to raise taxes," complained Rollins. "Obviously, this makes that go right out the door. Politically, I think it's a disaster." [fn 18] With that, Rollins was locked in a feud with Bush that would play out all the way to the end of the year.
But Democrats were also unhappy, since "no preconditions" was an evasive euphemism, and they wanted Bush to take the full opprobrium of calling for "new taxes." The White House remained duplicitous and evasive. In mid-May, pourparlers were held in the White House on a comprehensive deficit-reduction agreement. The Democrats demanded that Bush go on national television to motivate drastic, merciless austerity all along the line, with tax increases to be combined with the gouging of domestic and social programs. Bush demurred. All during June, the haggling about who would take the public rap went forward. On June 26, during a White House breakfast meeting with Bush, Sununu, Darman, and Congressional leaders, Congressman Foley threatened to walk out of the talks unless Bush went public with a call for tax hikes. For a moment, the dollar, the Treasury bill market, and the entire insane house of cards of Anglo-American finance hung suspended by a thread. If the talks blew up, a worldwide financial panic might ensue, and the voters would hold George responsible for the consequences. Bush's Byzantine response was to issue a low-profile White House press statement.
It is clear to me that both the size of the deficit problem and the need for a package that can be enacted require all of the following: entitlement and mandatory program reform; tax revenue increases; growth incentives; discretionary spending reductions; orderly reductions in defense expenditures; and budget process reform.
"Tax revenue increases" was the big one. June 26 is remembered by the GOP right wing as a Day of Infamy; Bush cannot forget it either, since it was on that day that his poll ratings began to fall, and kept falling until late November, when war hysteria bailed him out. Many Congressional Republicans who for years had had no other talking point than taxes were on a collision course with the nominal head of their party; a back-benchers' revolt was in full swing. Fitzwater and a few others still argued that "tax revenue increases" did not mean "new taxes", but this sophistry was received with scorn. Fitzwater argued in doublethink:
We feel [Bush] said the right thing then and he's saying the right thing now.....Everything we said was true then and it's true now. No regrets, no backing off.
Nixon's spokesman Ron Nessen had been more candid when he once announced, "All previous statements are inoperative." When Fitzwater was asked if he would agree that Bush had now formally broken his no tax pledge, Fitzwater replied: "No. Are you crazy?" On July 11, Congressional Democrats blocked Bush's favorite economic panacea, the reduction of the capital gains tax rate, by demanding that any such cut be combined with an overall increase of income tax rates on the wealthy. This yielded a deadlock which lasted until the last days of September.
Bush hid out in the White House for a few days, but then he had to face the press. There would be only one topic: his tax pledge. Bush affected a breezy and cavalier manner that could not disguise his seething internal rage at the thought of being nailed as a liar. The internal turmoil was expressed in the frequent incoherence of verbal expression. Bush started off with an evasive and rambling introduction in which he portrayed himself as fighting to prevent the suffering that an automatic sequester under the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings law would entail. The first question: "I'd like to ask you about your reversal on 'no new taxes.'" occasioned more evasive verbiage. Other questions were all on the same point. Bush attempted to pull himself together:
I'll say I take a look at a new situation. I see an enormous deficit. I see a savings and loan problem out there that has to be resolved. And like Abraham Lincoln said, "I'll think anew." I'm not -- but I'm not violating or getting away from my fundamental conviction on taxes or anything of that nature. Not in the least. But what I have said is on the table, and let's see where we go. But we've got a different-- we've got a very important national problem, and I think the president owes the people his --his judgment at the moment he has to address the problem. And that's exactly what I'm trying to do.
And look, I knew I'd catch some flak on this decision....But I've got to do what I think is right, and then I'll ask the people for support. But more important than posturing now, or even negotiating, is the result....
It was a landmark of impudence and dissembling. One of Bush's main objectives as he zig-zagged through the press conference was to avoid any television sound bites that would show him endorsing new taxes. So all his formulations were as diffuse as possible. Were tax revenue increases the same as taxes?
Bush: And I say budget reforms are required, and I say spending cuts are required, and so let's see where we come out on that.
Q: But is it taxes?
Bush: Is what taxes?
Q: What you're saying. Are you saying taxes are --higher taxes are--
Bush: I've told you what I've said, and I can't help you any more. Nice try.
Q: You said we needed--
Bush: You got it. You got it, and you've got a--you've seen the arrows coming my way. And that's fine, but-- let people interpret it any way--
Q: Well, I have--
Bush: Well, I want to leave it the way I said I would, so the negotiators are free to discuss a wide array of options, including tax increases. Does that help?
A questioner cited a tabloid headline: "Read My Lips: I Lied." Bush had been prepped by an historical review of how other presidents had allegedly changed their minds or lied, which had convinced Bush that he, although a liar, was actually in the same class with Lincoln. "I've been more relaxed about it than I thought I'd be," quipped Bush. "I feel comfortable about that because I've gone back and done a little research and seen these firestorms come and go, people who feel just as strongly on one side or another of an issue as I do and haven't gotten their way exactly." Why had he said no new taxes during the campaign? "Well, I don't think anybody did such a penetrating job of questioning...." Bush's basic idea was that he could get away with it, in the way that Reagan had gotten away with the 1982 recession. But for many voters, and even for many Republican loyalists, this had been yet another epiphany of a scoundrel. Many were convinced that Bush believed in absolutely nothing except hanging on to power.
It was also in the early summer of 1990 that it gradually dawned on many taxpayers that, according to the terms of the Savings & Loan bailout championed by Bush during the first weeks of his regime, they would be left holding the bag to the tune of at least $500 billion. Their future was now weighted with the crushing burden of a defacto second mortgage, in addition to the astronomical national debt that Reagan and Bush had rolled up. This unhappy consciousness was compounded by the personal carnage of the continuing economic contraction, which had been accelerated by the shocks of September-October, 1989. An ugly mood was abroad, with angry people seeking a point of cathexis.
They found it in Neil Bush, the president's marplot cadet son, the one we saw explaining his March 31, 1981 dinner engagement with Scott Hinckley. As even little children now know, Neil Bush was a member of the board of directors of Silverado Savings and Loan of Denver, Colorado, which went bankrupt and had to be seized by federal regulators during 1988. Preliminary estimates of the costs to the taxpayers were on the order of $1.6 billion, but this was sure to go higher. The picture was complicated by the fact that Neil Bush had received a $100,000 personal loan (never repaid, and formally forgiven) and a $1.25 million line of credit from two local land speculators, Kenneth Good and William Walters, both also prominent money-bags for the Republican Party. In return for the favors he had received, Neil Bush certainly did nothing to prevent Silverado from lending $35 million to Good for a real estate speculation that soon went into default. Walters received $200 million in loans from Silverado, which were never called in. This was a prima facie case of violation of the conflict of interest regulations. But instead of keeping quiet, Neil Bush showed that the family tradition of self-righteous posturing even when caught with both hands in the cookie jar was well represented by him: he launched an aggressive campaign of proclaiming his own innocence; it was all political, thought Neil, and all because people wanted to get at his august father through him.
Sleazy Neil Bush's pontificating did not play well; Neil sounded "arrogant and flip" and the result, as People magazine commented at the end of the year, was "a public relations fiasco." Posters went up in Washington emblazoned with the call to "Jail Neil Bush," while out in Denver, the Colorado Taxpayers for Justice marched outside Neil's downtown office (where Neil had answered questions about his ties to the Hinckley family in on March 31, 1981) carrying placards and chanting "Yes, Neil, it's wrong to steal!" and "Give it back, Neil!" [fn 19] Neil was looking forward to public hearings organized by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to probe his malfeasance; there was talk of a criminal indictment, but this eventually dwindled into a $200 million civil suit brought against Neil and 10 other former Silverado officials for "gross negligence" in their running of the affairs of the bank.
Bush's immediate reaction to the dense clouds gathering over Neil's head was to step up a scandal he saw as a counterweight: this was the "Keating Five" or "Lincoln Brigade" affair, which hit Senate Democrats Cranston, Riegle, Glenn, and DeConcini, plus Republican McCain. Some S&L loans showed "excesses," Bush was now ready to concede, and some were "foolish and ill-advised." But, he quickly stipulated: "I don't want to argue in favor of re-regulating the industry." And Bush was also on the defensive because, while he mandated $500 billion for the S&Ls, he wanted to veto a measure providing for unpaid parental leave for working mothers, despite a campaign promise that "we need to assure that women don't have to worry about getting their jobs back after having a child or caring for a child during serious illness." Bush now specified that he was not endorsing "mandated benefits" from government, but was just supporting collective bargaining to allow such leave. What to do if employers refused to grant leave? "You've got to keep working for them until they do," answered Bush with the ancient regime "let 'em eat cake" logic of a Marie Antoinette. [fn 20]
At a press conference in mid-July, Bush was asked if he agreed with son Neil's self-defense campaign, which was premised on the idea that the attack was a purely political smear, all because the poor boy's name happened to be Bush. The issue was focusing public attention on all the inherent rapacity of the predatory Bush family. George launched into an enraged, self-righteous monologue:
I agree that the president ought to stay out of it, and that the system ought to work. And I have great confidence in the integrity and honor of my son. And beyond that, I'm -- say no more. And if he's done something wrong, the system will --will-- will digest that. I have -- this is not easy for me, as a father; it's easy for me as the president because the system is going to work, and I will not intervene. I've not discussed this with any officials and suggested any outcome.
Note that once again the word "integrity" comes to the fore as soon as a probe seems to be turning up a felony. As for "system," this refers in the parlance of the Kissinger faction to the rule of the interlocking power cartels of the Eastern Anglophile liberal establishment. What Bush is really saying is that the matter will be hushed up by the damage control of the "system." Bush went on:
But what father wouldn't express a certain confidence in the honor of his son? And that's exactly the way I feel about it, and I feel very strongly about it. And for those who want to challenge it, whether they're in Congress or elsewhere, let the system work and then we can all make a conclusion as to his honor and integrity.
And it's tough on people in public life to some degree. And I've got three other sons and they all want to go to the barricades, every one of them, when they see some cartoon they don't like, particularly those that are factually incorrect in total -- total demeaning of the honor of their brother. They want to -- they want to do what any other-- any other kids would do. And I say: you calm down now, we're in a different role now; you can't react like you would if your brother was picked on in a street fight-- that's not the way the system works. But we have great emotions that I share with Barbara, I share with my sons and daughter that I won't share with you, except to say: One, as a president I am determined to stay out of this and let it work and let it work fairly. And secondly, I have confidence in the honor and integrity of my son, and if the system finds he's done something wrong he will be the first to step up and do what's right. [fn 21]
Bush's parting shot seemed to contain the optimistic premise that any sanctions against young Neil would be civil, and not criminal, and that is very likely the signal that George was sending out with these remarks. But the avoidance of criminal charges was not a foregone conclusion. A group of House Democrats had written to Attorney General Thornburgh to demand a special prosecutor for the hapless Neil. The signers included Pat Schroeder, Kastenmeier of Wisconsin, Don Edwards of California, Conyers of Michigan, Morrison of Connecticut, Larry Smith of Florida, Boucher of Virginia, Staggers of West Virginia, and Bryant of Texas. The measure was fully justified, but it soon turned out that the Foley leadership in the House, more of a marshmallow-stamp than a rubber stamp, had been leaning on Democratic members to shun this initiative. This became public when Congressman Feighan of Ohio, who had signed the letter, retracted his signature under the pressure of Foley's Democratic leadership.
But there was no doubt that Neil Bush had been acting as an influence peddler. Documents released by the Office of Thrift Supervision which detailed the conflict of interest charges against Neil conveyed a very low view of the dyslexic young man's business acumen: the regulators described him as "unqualified and untrained" to be a director of a financial institution. An untutored squirt, his father might have said. In the words of the OTS, "certainly he had no experience in managing a large corporation, especially a financial institution with almost $2 billion in assets."
The swirling controversy also engulfed Bush's consort. When questioned by a journalist several days before the Kuwait crisis erupted, Bar "flushes indignantly over the allegations against son Neil...." "I'm not going to talk about it," snapped Mrs. Bush, but she then did remark that it was "outrageous" that such a "wonderful, decent, honest man" was being denigrated just because his parents "chose to get into political life." As the interviewer noted, Mrs. Bush "smiles with maternal pride, though, when she acknowledges a rumor that son Marvin, 33, nearly resorted to fisticuffs defending Neil's honor and that brother Jeb, 37, was so ready to join the fray that 'we had to hold him back.'" "We just love our children, and they know it," gushed Mrs. Bush. "Someone once said to me that they didn't know another family where all five siblings love each other so much. And that's true. If push comes to shove, they're all there for each other." [fn 22]
As the end of July approached, Neil Bush was becoming a severe public relations problem for his father George. To make matters worse, economist Dan Brumbaugh, who enjoyed a certain notoriety as the Cassandra of the S&L debacle, appeared on television to confirm what the insiders already knew, that not just the S&Ls, but the entire commercial banking system of the United States, from the Wall Street giants down through the other money center banks, was all bankrupt. Economic reality, Bush's old nemesis, was once against threatening his ambition to rule. Then, in the last days of July, the White House received information that a national newsmagazine, probably Newsweek, was planning a cover story on Neil Bush. [fn 23]
Such were the events in the political and personal life of George Bush that provided the backdrop for Bush's precipitous and choleric decision to go to war with Iraq. This is not to say that the decision to go to war was caused by these unpleasant developments; the causes of the Gulf war are much more complicated than that. But it is equally clear that Bush's bellicose enthusiasm for the first war that came along was notably facilitated by the complex of problems which he would thus sweep off the front page.
There is much evidence that the Bush regime was committed to a new, large-scale war in the Middle East from the very day of its inauguration. The following analysis was filed on Palm Sunday, March 19, 1989 by one of the authors of the present study, and was published in Executive Intelligence Review under the title "Is Bush courting a Middle East war and a new oil crisis?":
Is the Bush administration preparing a military attack on Iran, Libya, Syria, or other Middle East nations in a flight forward intended to cut off or destroy a significant part of the world's oil supply and drastically raise the dollar price of crude on the world markets? A worldwide pattern of events monitored on Palm Sunday by Executive Intelligence Review suggests that such a move may be in the works. If the script does indeed call for a Middle East conflict and a new oil shock, it can be safely assumed that Henry Kissinger, the schemer behind the 1973 Yom Kippur war, is in the thick of things, through National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and the State Department's number-two man Lawrence Eagleburger. [...]
Why should the Bush administration now be a candidate to launch an attack on Libya and Iran, with large-scale hostilities likely in the Gulf? The basic answer is, as part of a manic flight-forward fit of "American Century" megalomania designed to distract attention from the fiasco of the new President's first 60 days in office. [fn 24]
Despite the numerous shortcomings in this account, including the failure to identify Iraq as the target, it did capture the essential truth that Bush was planning a Gulf war. By August, 1988 at the latest, when Iraq had emerged as the decisive victor in the 8-year long Iran-Iraq war, British geopolitical thinkers had identified Iraq as the leading Arab state, and the leading threat to the Israeli-dominated balance of power in the Middle East. This estimate was seconded by those Zionist observers for whom the definition of minimal security is the capability of Israel to defeat the combined coalition of all Arab states. By August of 1988, leading circles in both Britain and Israel were contemplating ways of preventing Iraq from rebuilding its postwar economy, and were exploring options for a new war to liquidate the undeniable economic achievements of the Baath Party. Bush would have been a part of these deliberations starting at a very early phase.
A more precise outline of the coming war was issued in early March, 1990, by Bush's political prisoner, Lyndon LaRouche. From his prison cell, LaRouche warned on March 10, 1990:
It is apparent that during the next 60 days, more or less, the world is being plunged into the greatest pre-war crisis of the twentieth century. [...]
Israel is preparing for war. The state of Israel is now marshaled in preparation for war, which, from one standpoint, might be described as Israel's attempted "final solution" to the Arab problem. This means a war, presumably against Iraq and other states, and the destruction of Jordan. [fn 25]
During June and July, this warning was seconded by King Hussein of Jordan, Yassir Arafat of the PLO, Prince Hassan of Jordan, and Saddam Hussein himself.
The Bush regime's contributions to the orchestration of the Gulf crisis of 1990-91 were many and indispensable. First there was a campaign of tough talking by Bush and Baker, designed to goad the new Likud-centered coalition of Shamir (in many respects the most belligerent and confrontational regime Israel had ever known) into postures of increased bellicosity. Bush personally referred to Israel as one of the countries in the Middle East that held hostages. In early March, 1990, Bush said that the US government position was to oppose Israeli settlements not only on the West Bank of the Jordan and the Gaza Strip, but also in East Jerusalem. A few days before that, Baker had suggested that US support for a $400 million loan guarantee program for settling Soviet Jews in Israel would be forthcoming only if Israel stopped setting up new settlements in the occupied territories. Bush's mention of East Jerusalem had toughened that line. [fn 26] Baker had added some tough talk of his own when he had told a Congressional committee that if and when the Israeli government wanted peace, they had only to call the White House switchboard, whose number he proceeded to give. But on June 20, Bush suspended the US dialogue with the PLO which he had caused to be started during December, 1988. The pretext was a staged terror incident at an Israeli beach.
July, 1990 was full of the hyperkinetic travel and diplomacy which has become George's trademark. Over the July Fourth weekend, Bush went to Kennebunkport to prepare for the London NATO summit and the successive Houston summit of the seven leading industrial nations. There is evidence that he was already in the full flush of the manic phase, and that the "read my lips" press conference and the Neil Bush affair had produced massive psychic carnage. According to a press account, Bush passed the time in Kennebunkport.
with his usual breakneck round of throwing horseshoes, casting fishing lures, bashing golf balls, and careening across the waves in his speedboat. Instead of arriving in London a day before the meeting began, Mr. Bush squeezed in one more golf game on Wednesday morning, and left that night. But here, it seemed that the bottomless well of energy had a bottom after all. Mr. Bush got off Air Force One looking tired, eyes puffy and his stride less spry than the "spring colt" to which he always compares himself.
During the London summit, Bush appears to have been unusually irritable. One small crisis came when he found himself waiting for his limousine in front of Lancaster House while his aides scrambled to bring his car around. Bush "craned his neck around, pursed his lips, stuck his hands in his pockets, and glared at the nearest aide until his car finally appeared." [fn 27]
The secret agenda at this summit was dominated by the NATO out of area deployments, transforming the alliance into the white man's vengeful knout against the third world. According to a senior NATO consultant, the Lancaster House summit focused on "increasing tension and re-armament in a number of countries, in North Africa, the Middle East including Palestine, and Asia through, increasingly, to Southeast Asia. There are new dangers from new directions. We are shifting from an exclusive focus on the east-west conflict, to a situation of risk coming eventually or potentially from all directions." The talk in London in that July was about a possible new Middle East war, which "would tend to escalate horizontally and vertically. A real conflict in the Levant would extend from the Turkish border to the Suez canal. It would involve the neighbors of the main combatants. The whole thing would be in a state of flux, because the great powers couldn't afford just to sit there." In order to avoid public relations problems for the continental European governments, who still had qualms about their domestic public opinion, these debates were not featured in the final communique, which complacently proclaimed the end of the Cold War and invited Gorbachov to come and visit NATO headquarters to make a speech. [fn 28]
After hob-nobbing with Thatcher, Queen Elizabeth II, and other members of the royal family, Bush flew to Houston to assume the role of host of the Group of 7 yearly economic summit. At this summit, the Anglo-Saxon master race as represented by Bush and Thatcher found itself in a highly embarrassing position. Everyone knew that the worst economic plague outside of the communist bloc was the English-speaking economic depression, which held not just the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada but also Australia, New Zealand, and other former imperial outposts in its grip. The continental Europeans were interested in organizing emergency aid and investment packages for the emerging countries of eastern Europe, and the Soviet republics, but this the Anglo-Saxons adamantly opposed. Rather, Bush and Thatcher were on a full trade-war line against the European Community and Japan when it came to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and other matters of international economics. Bush's Tex-Mex menus and country and western entertainment programs were unable to hide an atmosphere of growing animosity.
In the following week, the Anglo-Saxon supermen were once again plunged into gloom when Gorbachov and Kohl, meeting on July 16 in the south Russian town of Mineralny Vody near Stavropol, announced the Soviet acquiescence to the membership of united Germany in NATO. This was an issue that Bush and Thatcher had hoped would cause a much longer delay and much greater acrimony, but now there were no more barriers to the successful completion of the "two plus four" talks on the future of Germany, which meant that German reunification before the end of the year was unavoidable.
On the same day that Kohl and Gorbachov were meeting, satellite photographs monitored in the Pentagon showed that Iraq's crack Hammurabi division, the corps d'elite of the Republican Guard, was moving south towards the border of Kuwait. By July 17, Pentagon analysts would be contemplating new satellite photos showing the entire division, with 300 tanks and over 10,000 men, in place along the Iraq-Kuwait border. A second division, the Medina Luminous, was beginning to arrive along the border, and a third division was marching south. [fn 29]
The disputes between Iraq and Kuwait were well-known, and the Anglo-Americans had done everything possible to exacerbate them. Iraq had defended Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the other Gulf Cooperation Council countries against the fanatic legions of Khomeini during the Iran-Iraq war. Iraq had emerged from the conflict victorious, but burdened by $65 billion in foreign debt. Iraq demanded debt relief from the rich Gulf Arabs, who had not lifted a finger for their own defense. As for Kuwait, it had been a British puppet state since 1899. Both Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates were each acknowledged to be exceeding their OPEC production quotas by some 500,000 barrels per day. This was part of a strategy to keep the price of oil artificially low; the low price was a boon to the dollar and the US banking system, and it also prevented Iraq from acquiring the necessary funds for its postwar demobilization and reconstruction. Kuwait was also known to be stealing oil by overpumping the Rumailia oil field, which lay along the Iraq-Kuwait border. The border through the Rumaila oil field was thus a bone of contention between Iraq and Kuwait, as was the ownership of Bubiyan and Warba islands, which controlled the access to Umm Qasr, Iraq's chief port and naval base as long as the Shatt-el-Arab was disputed with Iran. It later became known that the Emir of Kuwait was preparing further measures of economic warfare against Iraq, including the printing of masses of counterfeit Iraqi currency notes which he was preparing to dump on the market in order to produce a crisis of hyperinflation in Iraq. Many of these themes were developed by Saddam Hussein in a July 17 address in which he accused the Emir of Kuwait of participation in a US-Zionist conspiracy to keep the price of oil depressed.
The Emir of Kuwait, Jaber el Saba, was a widely hated figure among Arabs and Moslems. He was sybaritic degenerate, fabulously wealthy, a complete parasite and nepotist, the keeper of a harem, and the owner of slaves, especially black slaves, for domestic use in his palace. The Saba family ran Kuwait as the private plantation of their clan, and Saba officials were notoriously cruel and stupid. Iraq, by contrast, was a modern secular state with high rates of economic growth, and possessed one of the highest standards of living and literacy rates in the Arab world. The status of women was one of the most advanced in the region, and religious freedom was extended to all churches.
Anglo-American strategy was thus to use economic warfare measures, including embargos on key technologies, to back Saddam Hussein into a corner. When the position of Iraq was judged sufficiently desperate, secret feelers from the Anglo-Americans offered Saddam Hussein encouragement to attack Kuwait, with secret guarantees that there would be no Anglo-American reaction. Reliable reports from the Middle East indicate that Saddam Hussein was told before he took Kuwait that London and Washington would not go to war against him. Saddam Hussein was given further assurances through December and January, 1991 that the military potential being assembled in his front would not be used against him, but would only permanently occupy Saudi Arabia. It is obvious that, in order to be believable on the part of the Iraqi leadership, these assurances had to come from persons known to exercise great power and influence in London and Washington-- persons, let us say, in the same league with Henry Kissinger. One prime suspect who would fill the bill is Tiny Rowland, a property custodian of the British royal family and administrator of British post-colonial and neo-colonial interests in Africa and elsewhere. Tiny Rowland had been in Iraq in July, shortly before the Iraqi military made their move.
It is important to note that every aspect of the public conduct of the Bush regime until after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait had become a fait accompli was perfectly coherent with the assurances Saddam Hussein was receiving, namely that there would be no US military retaliation against Iraq for taking Kuwait.
The British geopoliticians so much admired by Bush are past masters of the intrigue of the invitatio ad offerendum, the suckering of another power into war. Invitatio ad offerendum means in effect "let's you and him fight." It is well known that US Secretary of State Dean Acheson, a close associate of Averell Harriman, had in January, 1950 officially and formally cast South Korea outside the pale of American protection, providing encouragement to Kim Il Sung to start the Korean war. There is every indication that the North Korean attack on South Korea in 1950 was also secretly encouraged by the British. Later, the British secretly encouraged Chinese intervention into that same war. The Argentinian seizure of the Malvinas Islands during 1982 was evidently preceded by demonstrations of lethargic disinterest in the fate of these islands by the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Carrington. Saddam Hussein's attack on Iran in 1980 had been encouraged by US and British assurances that the Teheran government was collapsing and incapable of resistance.
As we have seen, the Pentagon knew of Iraqi troops massing on the border with Kuwait as for July 16-17. These troop concentrations were announced in the US press only on July 24, when the Washington Post reported that "Iraq has moved nearly 30,000 elite army troops to its border with Kuwait and the Bush administration put US warships in the Persian Gulf on alert as a dispute between the two gulf nations over oil production quotas intensified, US officials and Arab diplomats said yesterday." The Iraqis had invited a group of western military attaches to travel by road from Kuwait City to Baghdad, during which time the western officers counted some 2,000 to 3,000 vehicles moving south with a further reinforcement of two divisions of the Republican Guards. [fn 30]
If Kuwait had been so vital to the security of the United States and the west, then it is clear that at any time between July 17 and August 1 --and that is to say during a period of almost two weeks-- Bush could have issued a warning to Iraq to stay out of Kuwait, backing it up with some blood-curdling threats and serious, high-profile military demonstrations. Instead, Bush maintained a studied public silence on the situation and allowed his ambassador to convey a message to Saddam Hussein that was wholly misleading, but wholly coherent with the hypothesis of a British plan to sucker Saddam into war.
On July 24, press releases from the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon were balanced between support for the "moderate" Kuwaitis and Saudis on the one hand, and encouragement for an Arab-mediated peaceful settlement. Margaret Tutwiler at the State Department stressed that the United States had no commitment to defend Kuwait:
We do not have any defense treaties with Kuwait and there are no special defense or security commitments to Kuwait. We also remain strongly committed to supporting the individual and collective self-defense of our friends in the gulf, with whom we have deep and long-standing ties.
An anonymous US military official quoted by the Washington Post added that if Iraq seized a small amount of Kuwaiti territory as a means of gaining negotiating leverage in OPEC, "the United States probably would not directly challenge the move, but would join with all Arab governments in denouncing it and putting pressure on Iraq to back down." Two US KC-135 air tankers were about to carry out refueling exercises with the United Arab Emirates Air Force, it was announced, and the six ships of the US Joint Task Force Middle East based in the Persian Gulf were deployed Monday July 23 for "communications support" for this air exercise, according to the Pentagon. Two of these US ships were in the northern Gulf, near the coasts of Iraq and Kuwait. [fn 31] But there was nothing blood-curdling about any of this, and Bush's personal silence was the most eloquent of all. In addition, the Bush administration was lobbying in Congress during this week in opposition to a new round of Congressional trade sanctions against Iraq. Iraqi capabilities to take Kuwait were now in place, and the Bush regime had not reacted.
On July 25, US Ambassador April Glaspie met with Saddam Hussein, and conveyed a highly misleading message about the US view of the crisis. Glaspie assured Saddam Hussein that she was acting on direct instructions from Bush, and then delivered her celebrated line: "We have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflict, like your border disagreement with Kuwait." There is every indication that these were indeed the instructions that had been given directly by the chief agent provocateur in the White House, Bush. "I have direct instructions from the president to seek better relations with Iraq," Glaspie told Saddam. According to the Iraqi transcript of this meeting, Glaspie stressed that this had always been the US position: "I was in the American embassy in Kuwait during the late 1960's. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and the issue is not associated with America." [fn 32] Saddam Hussein illustrated Iraq's economic grievances and need of economic assistance for postwar reconstruction, points for which Ms. Glaspie expressed full US official comprehension. Shortly after this, April Glaspie left Kuwait to take her summer vacation, another signal of elaborate US government disinterest in the Kuwait-Iraq crisis.
According to the Washington Post of July 26, Saddam Hussein used the meeting with Glaspie to send Bush a message that "'nothing will happen' on the military front while this weekend's mediation efforts are taking place." The mediation referred to an effort by Egyptian President Mubarak and the Saudi government to organize direct talks between Iraq and Kuwait, which were tentatively set for the weekend of July 28-29 in Jeddah. Over that weekend, Bush still had absolutely nothing to say about the Gulf crisis. He refused to comment on what Thurgood Marshall had said about him and his man Souter: "I have a high regard for the separation of powers and for the Supreme Court," was Bush's reply to reporters. (Attorney General Thornburgh said he was "saddened" by Marshall's comment.)
According to the Washington Post of July 30, the Saudi government announced on July 29 that the Iraqi-Kuwaiti talks, which had been postponed, would take place in Jeddah starting Tuesday, July 31. The Kuwaiti delegation abruptly walked out of these talks, a grandstanding gesture obviously calculated to incense the Iraqi leadership. On the morning of July 31, the Washington Post reported that the Iraqi troop buildup had now reached 100,000 men between Basra and the Kuwaiti border. At the Pentagon, when spokesman Pete Williams was pressed to comment on this story, he replied:
I've seen reports about the troops there, but we've never discussed here numbers or made any further comments on that. I think the State Department has some language they've been using about obviously being concerned about any buildup of forces in the area, and can go through, as we've gone through here, what our interests in the Gulf are, but we've never really gotten into numbers like that or given that kind of information out. [fn 33]